One of the 30 winners of Innovate UK's First-of-a-Kind 2021 rail competition was a project to design a lighter, cheaper and 'greener' electrification mast. The design is a joint venture between Furrer+Frey, an international electrification engineering company, Prodrive Composites and university teams at Cranfield, Southampton and Newcastle Universities.
The experimental mast is made from advanced composite materials and has embedded smart sensors which will supply realtime data to inform maintenance schedules, and reduce the need for manual line-side checks.
The masts will weigh around a tenth of the equivalent steel masts, but have the same tensile strength. The composite masts will require piles 1.25m deep as opposed to the minimum so far of 3.7m on the Midland Mainline. Not only will the production process be more environmentally friendly but installation will be considerably cheaper which, combined with the savings on labour-intensive lineside checks, will make a welcome cost reduction on electrification projects. With considerable route miles of electrification required in Scotland in the near future, innovative design achievements such as this could make a significant contribution to freeing up funds for other projects, such as dualling the rest of the main intercity routes.
Deutche Bahn (DB) has announced that it will begin construction of three overhead line 'islands' in Schleswig-Holstein this autumn. The islands will be short stretches from a few hundred metres to a few kilometres. This will allow Battery/Overhead-Electric bi-mode units to charge in transit.
The first new trains will operate in 2023 and the 'island' electrification will enable all diesel trains to be withdrawn in due course. Two other German states are following suit soon: Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia.